Loading...

Friday, April 29, 2016

VIEW FROM THE SKOPJE STREET - Protestor tells


Photo: Martin Anastasovski (left) with a man he bumped into in Skopje, the Macedonian capital, who turned out to be a penniless Syrian refugee on his way to Vienna. Martin gave the man some money to pay for his bus ticket to the Serbian border.


VIEW FROM THE SKOPJE STREET - Protestor tells
by Sasha Uzunov



TEAM UZUNOV, in trying to offer a wide variety of voices over the political crisis in Macedonia, speaks to a Macedonian man, Martin Anastasovski, and ask why is he protesting.

Martin has resided in Skopje since 2013, after living in the United States nearly half his life. He translates books and essays on topics relevant to the development of society; he works with disadvantaged children in  the Roma community and helps build business relations between Macedonia and the diaspora.

Question 1: Why are you protesting?

Martin Anastasovski: I went out to protest because i feel that this government can't bring the kind of change our country needs to prosper. This government had a historic chance to improve the image of Macedonia for its own people and to take the country to the next level, but it fell into the trappings that come with power and popularity. The government had plenty of resources at its disposal to bring the Macedonian society up to speed with the European norm in terms of healthcare, education, culture, civic life, social development, business, etc. There are too many examples which demonstrate that the people who run the country never had the right idea how things should be done. Nepotism and political cronyism played a big role in that. You can't have good results across the board unless you have the best people in each area of governance. All these years the government thought it can maintain good public support through public relation stunts, but Macedonians have learned to tell apart substance from triviality. The taped conversations simply enabled the public to hear some politicians think and why the country has sunk this low. 

Question 2: What is your prognosis for the future if SDSM came to power? What advice would you give to either SDSM or VMRO-DPMNE was given another mandate? 

Martin Anastasovski: This is the most complicated political situation in Macedonian history. If or when SDSM comes to power, they will spend lots of time and energy on purging government bodies and ministries of VMRO-DPMNE party cadre. That is almost a given, but because the administration now employs more people than ever before, that process will be painstaking and tiresome and will put the country into a gridlock for months. After being in opposition for more than a decade, SDSM will need time to get a grip on things. But the burning question is what is going to happen to the people who are implicated in the recorded conversations? The civic opposition wants them prosecuted so that something like this can never happen to Macedonia again, but it will set a precedent. There are many people who suffered under SDSM when state companies were being privatized, so they will seek their own justice, they will want to prosecute other public figures who are now faded in the background. 
The only advice is for us to have a process of national reconciliation. This disruption is a rare chance to start with a clean slate. The public has to come to a deeper, broader understanding of what has been going on. We have to leave out all speculations about some purported dark forces from outside controlling everything that is going on in the country. We have to realize that it has been us all along. Macedonians in the ethnic and national sense have brought and acted on decisions which have landed the country in a ditch. I am not saying that we exist in a geopolitical vacuum, but we have our own state which enables people to make good decisions. In great part, we are where we are because people have made very poor decisions at the local and national levels, at every imaginable level of the hierarchy of decision-making. This is the result of having weak institutions. No Macedonian government has ever encouraged independent thinking and doing in the institutions of the Government. We as a society have enabled a culture that allows politicians to be off limits, virtually untouchable. To reconcile means to understand and to accept that our collective mentality is the product of fear, greed and impunity and that public servants and decision-makers never had any better examples to follow. This is not going to erase from our collective memory what we already know about this government, but we have to start somewhere. Please don’t get me wrong, there is and there will be chaos in the period to come, but at the same time we have to generate an opposite polarity that will be rational and that will pull the nation towards a safer place from where we can contemplate a better future for Macedonia. In the meantime, people should ask themselves, “can we forgive them in order to save ourselves?” 

Question 3: Your thoughts on Macedonia’s name and possible federalisation? 

Martin Anastasovski: The dignity of the Macedonian people rests on the name Macedonia and this is deeply rooted to the suffering of its people, the fight for freedom and human rights. This is the main argument in defense of us preserving our name. The European Union, however, doesn’t like to hear about the suffering of any nation because their countries have either caused suffering to others or their own nations have suffered under various circumstances. We are not going to get any sympathy and to an extent that is good, because sympathy will cause the nation to become entrenched in a victim’s mentality as it has been the case especially since 2008. We shouldn’t want to see the world from the position of a victim. Instead we should make steps in proving that this is a country worth in and of itself. We should build up our human capacity and be proactive in the ways in which we interact with other countries. Unfortunately, the protracted political situation doesn’t give me too much hope to think that we will change in a way that is going to bring out the best of us. But let’s keep an open mind. In the meantime, the “name issue” and Macedonia becoming part of NATO rests on the scope of understanding and the amount of patience among decision-makers abroad. This is contingent on the currents of geopolitics and for that very reason Macedonia needs to look beyond party politics. The topic of federalization demands broader analysis. The Albanian factor pressing for federalization is tied to Macedonia becoming part of the EU and NATO and the state of politics within the country. The general impression is that people are “stuck” within a political context that puts limits on development and prosperity. On the other hand Macedonians have to have a country that is wholesome and the state must preserve its sovereignty, while at the same time adapting to the changing realities. 


Question 4: There was some vandalism of Macedonian monuments by protestors. Were you alarmed? (see link)

Martin Anastasovski: On the second day of the protest a rather large mass of people gathered in front of the Sobranie [Parliament]. You could tell that people came on their own will because there was a positive atmosphere, you could feel the excitement in the air. I was feeling optimistic that the protest will gain momentum, increase in numbers and raise the awareness of the Macedonian public. When people began to throw eggs and paint at the triumphal arch my mood soured. But I kept an open mind, thinking this is going to be the only building or monument that takes some heat, simply because it is a sore spot, completely out of place, despised by too many people. The next day the protesters were pelting the arch again, threw paint, scribbled graffiti on it and this is where I knew that some people are hell-bent on vandalizing the Skopje 2014 project, which includes monuments that are of sentimental value to me personally and to many people in Macedonia and abroad. Because of a group of selfish people, the protest sent all the wrong messages to the general public in Macedonia and the world. I visited the protest few times since, as an observer, and I didn’t feel the same enthusiasm from within. I imagined it would become a vehicle that will take Macedonia to the next level, but it didn’t because there is too much aggression in it and too little genuine care for the country as a whole. If the protest becomes more inclusive I will be happy to join again.

Question 5: Macedonian society is a divided along strong political party lines now, how can the people be unified? 

Martin Anastasovski: Unity is an abstract idea. A nation cannot be “united” because that would imply that people don’t have an opinion on critical issues which their lives depend on within the shared living space. Macedonians think that the nation is disunited and that depresses a lot of people. But it shouldn’t be so. The histories of many nations are marked by competing factions. Competition yields the best ideas that resolute individuals pick up on and bring into practice. This is where we need to reflect on Goce Delchev’s famous thought in which he gives the attribute “cultured” (with which he means fair) to the word “competition”: Kulturen natprevar. He had figured out one of the preconditions for a better society. That being said, at their best, nations can enjoy a period of time in which most of the people agree on an important issue or on a certain way of life. In Macedonia, we need to have a cultured competition between perceptions, opinions and ideas. 
However, I am not convinced that the political class of the day is capable for that level of discourse. It seems that politicians are not politically practical and don’t compete for the sake of competition. In the current political divide they have to disgrace their opponent and annul their views as either outlandish (in respect to society) or venomous (to the state). In my view Macedonia may come to enjoy a period in which most people agree with one another on important issues, when there will appear dissenters within the political parties who are going to criticize the perceptions, opinions, ideas and actions in their own party. This has to be done publically through the media, by writing op-ed pieces or by appearing in talk shows so that the people emerge out of the black or white world of party politics. Respectable social and political commentators will need to take the responsibility of putting into perspective the essential points that may arise out of this criticism, that are relevant to the country’s wellbeing and progress. I think the National public radio and television service need to take the lead and to finally start serving the public’s interest. 
If there isn’t dissent within the parties it would mean that that neither party has the internal democratic capacity that should be publically recognized as a prerequisite that is needed for competing in national politics. Political parties must present their core beliefs to the constituents. Otherwise, how would we know on what ideological and theoretical basis they will organize and manage the development of our society? What are the economic/existential principles in whose light they will present solutions to the problems that challenge the livelihoods of people? 

Question 6: Was Macedonian President George Ivanov correct in giving an unprecedented 56 pre-emptive pardons?

Martin Anastasovski: The opposition claims this was VMRO’s move and was intended to ignite a crisis that will prolong a looming moment of truth for them. Others think Ivanov’s objective was to “even-out” the playing field so that SDSM participates in the elections, to supposedly appease the opposition by pardoning its leader. There are many legal issues that render the pardons unconstitutional. The President never stated what charges the individuals are relieved of. Macedonian politics have become a gladiator arena, a fight to the death. This is not about the people anymore, it is about the ambitions and fears of political factions and their clients/partners. Macedonia doesn’t have an influential political practitioner, precisely the one who is in the role of President, who will use his or her authority to arbitrate between good and bad decisions in the political arena. The pardons didn’t resolve the political crisis, but deepened it even further. The planned talks in Vienna did not take place and the elections are not going to happen. In light of how complicated the situation is, Macedonia needs a national dialogue and a healthy, non-violent protest in which all Macedonians will participate. 



Tuesday, April 26, 2016

BLANK CULTURAL CANVAS TO WRITE UPON?

by Sasha Uzunov

Pro government media in Macedonia have levelled serious charges against Serbian activists and in-directly against Belgrade over the vandalising of monuments- by daubing Serbian words-during anti Macedonian government protests in the Macedonian capital, Skopje last week. see link

State media allege activists from the Serbian “internationalist" group, NGO, Canvas, were leading the charge in protests.

TEAM UZUNOV contacted the Serbian Foreign Ministry, and Canvas, as well as Canvas founder Srdja Popovic to comment. But as yet no responses have been forthcoming.

However, the Canadian Embassy in Belgrade, Serbia, which also covers Macedonia did release a statement to TEAM UZUNOV over the alleged involvement of Serbian activists from Canvas:

Canadian Foreign Affairs Spokesperson, Amy Mills:

"Canada is closely monitoring developments in Macedonia, including the recent protests.

"We call on the Government of Macedonia to respect the rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly.

"We are aware of reports of vandalism, and urge all protestors to demonstrate peacefully."

Australian Embassy in Belgrade has sent two staff to Macedonia for the crisis.

The Australian Ambassador to Macedonia, Serbia, Montenegro, and stationed in Belgrade, Mrs Julia Feeney made this comment to TEAM UZUNOV:

"I have two staff in country at the moment monitoring the overall situation,” she said. "There are many issues [to deal with]."


OTPOR (Resistance) - now known as Canvas:

A Serbian “Internationalist” group, NGO, which in 2000 brought down the Slobodan Milosevic regime in Serbia. Milosevic pushed for a Greater Serbia, a concept that was anti Macedonian, Croat, Albanian, Bosnian.

STRANGE BEDFELLOWS- Romantic nationalists, revolutionaries and religious reactionaries:

Self-proclaimed "Romantic ultra Serb nationalist" Vojislav Kostunica linked up with OTPOR and the Serbian Orthodox Church (which doesn't recognise the Macedonian Church) to take down, quite correctly, Milosevic. Link: 



Otpor was founded by Srdja Popovic, a close confidante of politician Zoran Djindjic, later assassinated as payback for his role in bringing down Milosevic.

Djindjic, a political opportunist, went from Serb internationalist to nationalist, cynically became a one time supporter of Bosnian Serb war criminal Radovan Karadzic, and then back to being a non nationalist. Djindjic has been turned into pro West martyr though the truth might be that he was a cynical political operator.

1. link -
2. link - 
3. link -


Popovic and his Otpor - Canvas group teach people how to bring down governments by non-violent means. If the vandalism claims a true, then Canvas has changed its modus operandi in Macedonia by employing violence.

SKOPJE - Belgrade’s battlefield?

Furthermore, assuming the allegations are true--TEAM UZUNOV has not had any reponse from the Serbian Foreign Ministry nor Canvas to deny the charges--what are Serbian activists doing in Macedonia? Wouldn’t that constitute Serbian Cultural Hegemony?



.
In 1999, Serb nationalists went on a rampage in Skopje, Macedonia burning down the US Embassy in protest of NATO’s war in the then Serbian province of Kosovo. If the vandalism charges against Canvas are true, then it remains a contradiction that the NGO which brought down tyrant Milosevic now indulges in Serbian cultural hegemony in Macedonia.

No Macedonian activist has been found to have vandalised Serb monuments in protest of the Serb government’s rehabilitation in May 2015 of ultra nationalist and controversial World War II leader Draza Mihailovic, who was anti-Macedonian.

Ironically, current Serb Prime Minister Alexander Vucic, a former ally of ultra nationalist Vojislav Seselj, has now presented himself as being pro West. The United States has gone out of its way to woo Serbia away from Russia’s orbit - with the release of Seselj from the Hague war crimes tribunal, much to the chagrin of Croatia.

Western media outlets have talked up Vucic’s regime, despite having one of the worst human rights records in the Balkans and a large number of journalists imprisoned. Oddly, Canvas have not tried to take him down, why?

Vucic is playing a clever balancing act between Washington and Moscow in the hope of getting a better deal.

It remains unknown where Canvas fits into the picture with Vucic, as it is an NGO not aligned with the Serbian government and eschews (opposes) Serbian nationalism but now that Vucic is being courted by the US, the constellation of stars may have changed. Canvas has been accused of being a pro-CIA front.

SERBIAN CULTURAL HEGEMONY IN MACEDONIA? - It remains a touchy subject. Team Uzunov has tried to open up an honest debate about the all the pervasive influence of Serbian culture in Macedonia. We have contacted Macedonian journalist, Sinisa Jakov Marusic of Balkan Insight website repeated times to discuss Serbian cultural hegemony in Macedonia but have not received any response. See link.

Assuming the conspiracy theory that Canvas is a CIA front for regime change in Macedonia, then it makes perfect sense to use Serbian cultural hegemony to achieve that. But it only remains a conspiracy theory that Canvas is a CIA front.

Other genuine factors could be at play in driving the demonstrations in Macedonia, popular discontent with the Nikola Gruevski VMRO-DPMNE - Ali Ahmeti DUI coalition government (2006-2016), corruption, nepotism, authoritarianism.

American Balkanologist, Chris Deliso begs to differ and sees sinister goings on, laying the blame on the West, bogeyman George Soros as well as Canvas in pushing the protests. see link to his story.

Both sides of Macedonia’s political establishment, VMRO-DPMNE and SDSM, have this naive acceptance of the superiority of Belgrade culture, so you get those who claim to be Macedonian patriots who are easily influenced by Serbian nationalist tabloids which whip up anti-Albanian hysteria and interestingly those Macedonians who claim to be “internationalists” in the vein of Vladimir Gligorov and theatre director Naum Panovski who ape ‘Serb internationalists.”

Gligorov and Panovski going to the extreme of adopting a Serbian identity via Yugoslavist ideology. One of the reasons for a falling out between Vladimir and his father Kiro Gligorov, the President of Macedonia (1991-99) was Vladimir’s conversion to a Serbian / Yugoslav identity. Vladimir Gligorov was one of the founders of the Democratic Party of Serbia (DS) in 1988-89, of which Srdja Popovic and Zoran Djindjic were members.

UBIQUITIOUS SERBIAN CULTURAL HEGEMONY?
An opponent of Canvas and a political front man for resigned Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski, Stevce Jakimovski (above), Mayor of Skopje suburb of Karpos, as a Macedonian “patriot” has strongly laid into the Serbian NGO. What is interesting is Jakimovski, despite criticism from his local ratepayers, hired a Serbian turbo folk singer Marinko Rokvic, when local Macedonian artists remain unemployed.


A critic of Gruevski, pundit Borjan Jovanovski (left), whitewashed the Vucic regime, in a twitter message declaring that concerns about Serbia were largely exaggerated, (see link) even though Vucic has an atrocious human rights record and recently came under fire even from the British government. see link

The irony being Vucic is a close political ally of Gruevski.

Jovanovski did not call for demonstrations over the rehabilitation of  Serbia’s Draza Mihailovic.





Sunday, April 17, 2016

SAM VAKNIN - MACEDONIA CRISIS

By Sasha Uzunov 
Dr Sam Vaknin, Israeli writer, analyst, pundit, Balkanologist, former economics advisor and confidante to Macedonian Prime Nikola Gruevski offers an insight into Macedonia’s political crisis, which was triggered last year by the Opposition party SDSM leader Zoran Zaev who confronted Macedonia’s Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski of the VMRO-DPMNE party with secretly taped recordings showing corrupt government dealings.

Gruevski resigned in early 2016 to make way for a caretaker government and for elections sometime this year as directed by European Union intervention known as the Przino Agreement -link

1. Dr Vaknin - Can recently resigned Macedonian Prime Minister, Nikola Gruevski survive and make a comeback?

Survive what? VMRO-DPMNE party will win the elections in June 5 by a landslide and Gruevski will again serve as Prime Minister. Both the Special Public Prosecutor and Opposition Leader (SDSM party) Zoran Zaev are in a precarious position.

2. Dr Vaknin - your views / analysis on the crisis? Causes?

All three sides involved in the crisis made serious mistakes.

In his attempt to dislodge the current government, opposition leader Zoran Zaev committed five faux-pas errors:

By releasing his bombs over an extended period of time, Zaev fostered a chronic, prolonged, and extended crisis. Experience shows that in order to induce a regime change, Zaev should have opted for an acute crisis: overwhelming (“shock and awe”), strictly limited in time, and immediately escalated. Chronic, protracted crises alienate the suffering population and backfire against the initiator of the crisis: they resent him for disrupting their lives unnecessarily and begin to suspect his motives;

Zaev (and the international community which egged him on) completely misjudged and misread the psychology of their adversary, Nikola Gruevski. The Prime Minister is a man of principles, stubborn, convinced of his own values, considers himself omniscient and infallible, and regards the opposition as self-interested and destructive. He reacts to blackmail and threats with a stiffening of his resolve. The more he is backed into a corner, the less likely he is to surrender, especially to people whom he considers to be long arms of foreign powers, acting against the national interest;

Instead of relying on people power, street demonstrations, strikes, and other populist and popular expressions of discontent, Zaev chose to secretly negotiate with Gruevski, tete-a-tete, like two elitist conspirators about to divide the spoils of a successful bank heist. This made him look like a dishonest control freak, out to secure sinecures, jobs, money and power for himself and his acolytes. Hardly the profile of a national, selfless hero-whistleblower. People even began to speculate that he has embarked on this adventure merely to avoid a possible prison sentence in one of several investigations and cases against him;


Convinced that Gruevski was a dangerously delusional, authoritarian, and anti-Western strongman (not unlike Erdogan, Putin, and the late but not lamented Chavez), the international community decide to dispose of him. They trusted Zaev to do the job, but he failed. His failure engendered growing domestic and regional instability which threatened both the Balkans and the West’s fight against ISIS. The West always prefers stability to democracy. The tide has turned: now Zaev and his attempts to destabilize Macedonia have become the immediate threat, the clear and present danger to the interests of the international community.

By targeting only Macedonian politicians in his bombs, Zaev appeared to be increasingly pro-Albanian, letting this restless and vociferous ethnic minority become the natural arbiters of power between the warring internecine and immature Macedonian political factions. This bias did not endear him to a big segment of the increasingly more nationalistic and anti-Albanian Macedonian public.

Nikola Gruevski, the longest-serving Prime Minister of Macedonia, came to power on a platform of economic reforms. In less than a decade he has transformed the Macedonian business scene, passed numerous laws in various spheres of public and private life, and, for better or for worse, altered the aesthetics of Skopje, the capital. But he failed to tackle the pervasive culture of nepotism and cronyism and the vast informal social networks that undermine the rule of law and foster corruption as a way of life throughout Macedonia. His deep-felt need to exert and maintain control over everyone and everything led Gruevski to aid and abet the rent-seeking conduct of Macedonian businessmen and the media, rendering them vassals of the state.

Gruevski surrounded himself with loyal, obedient, but inexperienced functionaries and Ministers. Their tender age and inexperience would have disqualified them from office anywhere else in Europe. The hubris, contemptuous arrogance, and lack of self-discipline of the Prime Minister’s inner circle is evident in Zaev’s illicit recordings. But Gruevski felt that he had no choice: he could not rely on or trust the former elites of the country (affiliated with the opposition) whom he justly regarded as kleptocratic, venal, mendacious, and disloyal to the interests and priorities of the nation.

But Gruevski underestimated the groundswell of focused ill-will toward his regime. His populism and Narodnik, anti-elitist, anti-intellectual revolution alienated many constituencies: the urban middle-class, the country’s intellectuals, self-appointed elites, erstwhile managers and politicians, journalists, and even bona fide social and political reformers. The backlash against him reflected the pent-up resentment of these excluded and ignored constituencies. The release of Zaev’s bombs was the latest skirmish after they had lost the battles over Skopje 2014 (the interminable reconstruction and beautification of the capital) and the Name Issue (the conflict with Greece over the country’s official name and, therefore, its historical roots and identity). With Zaev’s bombs, these disgruntled leftovers of previous regimes felt that their time has finally come and that this may be their last chance to wrest power from Gruevski, who is still by far the most popular politician in Macedonia. Hence their panicky reaction to his adamant refusal to step down.

Gruevski should have been magnanimous in victory. He should have been less insecure. He should have adopted a more tolerant and inclusive policy towards the opposition and its journalists. He should have leveraged the human capital of the SDSM – its professors, intellectuals, and managers – to the benefit of the state. Given that Macedonia is a small country with a dire shortage of qualified and skilled people, permanently blacklisting half the population is a bad idea. In the United Kingdom, the opposition participates in decision-making in the form of a shadow government. In other countries, there are permanent consultative bodies which incorporate the opposition. Macedonia would do well to emulate these models. The civil service, the administration, should be strictly separated, with a Chinese wall, from the political parties. There are tried and true methods of accomplishing this separation in short order. The first step should be the introduction of term limits: a Prime Minister should never serve more than 2 mandates in a row. Even Putin had to resign when he served two terms in office as President!

When it comes to the European Union and, more generally, the West, Gruevski is understandably disappointed. As a country, Macedonia has been consistently lied to, manipulated, promises were broken, and rogue members (Greece and Bulgaria) allowed to subvert the accession process. But Gruevski should ease up on the rabid nationalistic, conspiratorial, and anti-Western propaganda. Even more importantly: he should stop acting or appear to be acting against the vital interests of the West. Allowing Iran to open an embassy and operate freely in Macedonia was not a good idea. Allowing Turkey a free hand here with regards to its Middle-Eastern allies is an even worse idea. Getting too friendly with Russia is definitely bad thinking. In a small and impoverished country, the national interest is identical to the national interests of its greatest benefactors, export markets, and hosts to its Gastarbeiter. As Gruevski found out the hard way, you cross the West (USA and EU) at your peril.

Gruevski should have been more attuned to the lessons of the Arab Spring and Ukraine. He underestimated technology and how it empowers the hitherto disenfranchised and impotent. With minimal or no investment, blogs and social media, YouTube and Facebook, helped to amplify and magnify the voices and opinions of his adversaries. Inconvenient truths found home and distribution networks where none had existed when he first became Prime Minister.

Finally, Gruevski’s obsession with foreign direct investment (FDI) prevented him from realizing his economic agenda. Macedonia may be the second fastest growing economy in Europe, but, in terms of developing countries, its growth is lacklustre and driven mainly by non-productive investment such as construction and government largesse. It is still way too dependent on remittances and, therefore, on the ups and downs of the global economy. He should have emphasized domestic investment and family firms and not link his and the country’s future to the whims and caprices of multinationals who regard Macedonia as just another fringe statistic in their enormous portfolios.

As Gruevski’s nationalistic, xenophobic, anti-Western rhetoric grew shriller and as he cosied up to the likes of Iran, Russia, and Turkey, the West decided that he should “step down”. As usual, the inept, corrupt, and none-too-intelligent functionaries of the European Union teamed up with arrogant, ignorant, and incompetent US intelligence operators to bungle it all up and make a godawful mess of things. There was no overt conspiracy to change Macedonia’s regime. Rather, the West switched its allegiance to the opposition and provided it with invaluable information, moral support, and an avalanche of reports which damned the government and its high-handed, authoritarian misconduct.

- What about the foreign takeover of the protectorate known as the Republic of Macedonia? What about the "putsch or coup of foreigners"?

The West overestimated Zaev, misjudged Gruevski, and misread the national character of the Macedonians. We have analyzed Zaev’s mistakes in the first part of this triptych. He failed to deliver. Blackmail and threats only rendered Gruevski even more intransigent and entrenched in his conviction that, chosen by the people, he should never surrender to a clique of criminals (as he regarded them). The Macedonians are a peace-loving, conflict-averse, and submissive lot. They avoid trouble even at a great personal cost. No matter what he did and what revelations he showered on them, Zaev did not succeed to mobilize the people’s power. His biweekly appearances fast degenerated into a perverse form of prurient entertainment.

The International “Community” steadfastly ignored the risks that an increasingly unstable Macedonia posed not only to its immediate neighbors, but to more global interests. Macedonia is the main gateway to Middle-Eastern refugees crossing into Europe and to European jihadists flocking into Syria and Iraq to join ISIS. It also features as an important junction in Europe-wide several gas pipeline schemes. Its restive Albanian minority has close kinship and business links with unsavoury characters across two borders: Kosovo and Albania. Crime is a way of life to many young, unemployed, uneducated, and destitute members of these communities. Some of them smuggle refugees across borders – a lucrative vocation. Others joined the fray in the Middle-East and returned home, well-trained in urban guerrilla. It is an explosive mix. Thus, the “regime change operation” could not have been more ill-timed.

The West’s overt and heavy-handed interference in the internal affairs of Macedonia (as if it were a colony or a protectorate) tarnished the opposition as a traitorous fifth column. This bout of Western arm-twisting and threats was only the latest round in a long series of lies, deceptions, and abuse heaped over Macedonia in the past two decades: a mountain ridge of broken promises, humiliating surrenders to Greek and Bulgarian (and now Albanian) vetoes, and blatantly unfair exclusion from NATO and the EU. The West’s policy consists of only sticks, no carrots – the Greek took all the carrots away.

The EU’s mismanaged public relations, haughty statements by pompous officials, and its typically bumbling and obscure way of managing the crisis as well as the esoteric secrecy that shrouded the whole affair led ineluctably to the proliferation of conspiracy theories and to a metastasizing paranoid xenophobia. These are the long-term legacies of this engineered crisis, regardless of its outcomes.



3. Dr Vaknin - Any impact on the name issue?

None. Both Macedonia and Greece are reaping the benefits of the stalemate over the name issue. Macedonian political parties leverage the name issue to their advantage by fostering chauvinistic nationalism. The Greeks wish to prevent Macedonia's accession to the EU because they believe that Macedonia is an artificial polity that, left to its own devices will disintegrate, thus allowing Greece both terorritorial and geopolitical gains.


4. Dr Vaknin - Macedonian President George Ivanov's pardons are they not a bad look for Macedonia and rule of law? And will it have an adverse effect ? link

President Gerald Ford pardoned former President Richard Nixon to avoid a protracted and ruinous period of legal tangles and civil unrest in a difficult period in the USA. The crisis in Macedonia spiralled out of control. The very sovereignty and integrity of Macedonia were being compromised. Ivanov was right and brave to have put a much-needed stop to it. But, he should have conditioned such amnesty on a full and public disclosure of wrongdoing by the culprits and a restitution to the coffers of the state of ill-gotten gains in return for immunity from prosecution;

Macedonia is a society traumatized by multiple catastrophes in a short period of time. This post-traumatic condition leads to dysfunctional and self-destructive behaviors and traits. National healing of these wounds and traumas should be a top priority. This could be achieved via Truth and Reconciliation Committees (such as in South Africa or Latin America) or even by implementing a "national healing" program that will apply to individuals and institutions which have been affected by these mishaps and disasters.

 Like in many other countries (including the USA and Russia), there should be an upper limit on the number of terms the Prime Minister can serve and be re-elected. This limitation will prevent power from becoming entrenched and concentrated in the hands of a single individual. Macedonia should remove the political parties from the business of running the country. Like in the United Kingdom, a civil service should take care of day to day activities. Policy-making will, of course, be left to politicians, but not implementation, procurement, and employment. Non-partisan expert bodies with multiple checks and balances and oversight should regulate, govern, oversee, and execute policies - not politicians. Party members should not be allowed to serve in certain critical functions of the state.

Monday, April 11, 2016

MODERN HISTORY WARS - Macedonia

THE HISTORY WARS IN MACEDONIA - SOFIA-BELGRADE AXIS
- by Sasha Uzunov


TEAM UZUNOV INTERVIEW WITH DR JOHN SCHINDLER - author of The Fall of the Double Headed Eagle - a history about World War I.
- Gavrlio Princip - assassin of Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo 1914, triggered World War I. -



-------
1. Dr Schindler, tells us about your book The Fall of the Double Headed Eagle? You uncover some incredible material...
A: The book is the product of years of research in archives and libraries -- a lot of the archival records especially in Vienna had lain undisturbed for a century. The story here was substantially untold, so I wanted to tell it and tell it right.

2. Are you aware that there are some historians in the Balkans, in particular Macedonia who should know better, who still paint Gavrilo Princip in a positive light, even though the ideology behind him, was anti Macedonian to say the least?
A: Princip remains a hero figure to many Serbs. Witness the statues of him still going up in Serbia and in Republika Srpska, a century later. To me, this is hardly a sign of political health.
3. Why do you think there has been such a whitewash of Princip in certain quarters? He became a mini cult in Tito's Yugoslavia despite the Serb nationalist overtones.
A: Titoism was happy to embrace a Yugoslav version of Princip; Serbian nationalists have their own version of him. In truth, he was an angry teenager brimming with hate and incoherent ideologies. He was much like jihadists today -- long on hate, short on thought, easy to manipulate.
4. Tell us about the mastermind behind Princip's assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, the ruthless Colonel Apis?
A: Dragutin Dimitrijevic-Apis, the colonel who headed Serbian military intelligence, was the real driver of the Sarajevo assassination plot, there's no doubt about that, despite Belgrade's efforts to destroy paperwork to hide their official involvement in the crime. Apis was obsessed with Austria-Hungary and the Habsburgs, he got the war he wanted, though he did not survive it, being executed by his own government in 1917 for alleged treason (in reality the charges were trumped up, Apis was a political liability the Serbian military and the Karadjordjevic dynasty wanted to be rid of).  
5. The start of World War I gets pinned on Austria, but what of Russia and Serbia's role?
A: Austria bears a large amount of the blame, to be sure. Vienna, especially its top generals, itched for war against Serbia. For them, the assassination was a long-awaited pretext. But Russia bears huge blame too, not least because their military attache in Belgrade, Colonel Viktor Artamonov, was funding Apis's clandestine plots, including the Sarajevo assassination. We still don't know how much the Russian government knew about Artamonov's role but that he played a large one -- Apis admitted it -- is not in doubt. And of course Serbia bears enormous blame, its spies having trained, equipped, and dispatched the assassins into Bosnia to commit acts of terrorism. Belgrade has a lot to answer for here.
--------
- Who is Dr John Schindler?
John R. Schindler is a strategist, author, and commentator whose security-focused career has included a couple decades as both a scholar and practitioner. He is the national security columnist for the New York Observer.
Previously a professor of national security affairs at the U.S. Naval War College, where he taught courses on security, strategy, intelligence, terrorism, and military history, before joining the NWC faculty, he spent nearly a decade with the super-secret National Security Agency as an intelligence analyst and counterintelligence officer. There’s not much he can say about that, except that he worked problems in Eastern Europe and the Middle East with a counterespionage flavor, and he collaborated closely with other government agencies who would probably prefer he didn’t mention them. He’s also served as an officer specializing in cryptology (now called information warfare for no particular reason) in the U.S. Navy Reserve.
He’s been a a senior fellow of the International History Institute at Boston University and as well as the chairman of the Partnership for Peace Consortium‘s Combating Terrorism Working Group, a unique body which brings together scholars and practitioners from more than two dozen countries across Eurasia to tackle problems of terrorism, extremism, and political violence. He has lectured on terrorism and security in over twenty countries.
He is a historian by background, with a B.A. and M.A. from the University of Massachusetts and a Ph.D. from McMaster University. His books deal with topics like the Italian front in World War I, Islamist extremism in the Balkans, and an insider’s look at how Al-Qa’ida thinks and operates. His most recent book is on the beginning of World War I on the Eastern Front.

- HISTORY WARS IN MACEDONIA?

Todor Alexandrov -photo left -(-1924 )- set up his 1919 version of VMRO (Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization) with funds from Italy and later became a pawn in Italian fascist leader Benito Mussolini’s machinations during the 1920s before his assassination at the hands of rival Vancho Mihailov. It remains puzzling why he has been rehabilitated in Macedonia?

SOFIA - BELGRADE AXIS: What's wrong with Macedonian historiography?
We've had to endure the malicious influence of the late Dr Zoran Todorovski, the Director of the Macedonian state archive, and his kooky obsessive desire of turning a pro Bulgarian historical character, Todor Alexandrov (-1924), into a Macedonian hero. His powerful patron was Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski who also has a fascination with Macedonian historical figures whose pedigree is questionable. see link. The paradox is that Gruevski gives succour to controversial figures which is at odds with his support for the Holocaust Museum in Skopje, the capital of Macedonia.








VMRO-DPMNE’s leader Nikola Gruevski’s burning passion for Todor Alexandrov - see link 













CASUALTY - Has been eminent Macedonian historian Dr Todor Chepreganov, a critic of Alexandrov. The historian has been deliberately sidelined by the Gruevski government.
BULGARIAN nationalists today are eager for Macedonians to give up their legacy, of the World War II Partizan Resistance movement, because by doing so it absolves Bulgaria of certain nasty episodes in its history that it refuses to come to terms with, such as its role in the Holocaust.
There are naive people in Macedonia who have fallen for simplistic labels of levica / desnica (left and right wing), ignoring the fact that partizan Resistance movement was an unofficial alliance of Macedonian communists and nationalists fighting against Nazi and Bulgarian occupation during World War II.

The Macedonian Partizan Resistance movement (right) during World War II was an unofficial alliance of Macedonian communists and nationalists grouped together in the National Liberation Army of Macedonia (NOV na M), and fought against Nazi Germany and its allies Fascist Italy and the Kingdom of Bulgaria. 

It was only later after the war had been won that some pro-Belgrade Macedonians communists, acting on orders from Marshal Tito, turned on their own independent minded communist comrades and also nationalist allies and started locking them up, including a hugely popular Resistance leader Metodija Andonov Cento, who was the victim of Stalinist political show trial in 1946.


 



“...fought for the liberation of their [Macedonia] nation rather than for any communist ideology…”

link

link
-----------------------------------
Belgrade-Sarajevo-Skopje?

Macedonia became independent in 1991 - but there seems to be this obsession of placing it still within a Yugoslavist narrative, even though Yugoslavia has ceased to exist, and as prominent Serbian Human Rights Activist Sonja Biserko explained in her ground breaking book (link) ended up being used as vehicle for Serbian nationalism.

2014 - THE YUGOSLAVIST NARRATIVE CONTINUES - minus Slovenia! - Balkan Insight story by Sasha Uzunov 



GAVRILO PRINCIP ? Interpreting History in Macedonia.

BALKAN Insight Reporter Sinisa Jakov Marusic, a staunch critic of alleged Macedonian "ultra nationalism" has this quaint fascination with Serbian nationalist figures… He seems to have this obsession with apportioning blame on a mythical creature, the alleged “ultra Macedonian nationalist” for the ethnic tensions between Macedonians and Albanians when it has more to do with Serbian cultural hegemony via Yugoslavism (defacto Serbian cultural hegemony), as British journalist and historian Misha Glenny explained (link). That there are people, such as pundit Borjan Jovanovski, a scion of a political dynasty established in Yugoslavist times,  in Macedonia today who call for the return of the Socialist Republic of Macedonia, the clear inference being Yugoslavia, is alarming. 






Borjan Jovanovski’s call for a return to a one-party state, where opposition was banned, is strange to say the least. It sounds very authoritarian:

Mirvet Muca - fled Enver Hoxha’s Albania in 1956 and found refuge in Yugoslavia, which he later fled in 1960 ! see link . In 1977 (1979 in some accounts), Macedonian dissident Dragan Bogdanovski was kidnapped by Yugoslav secret police in Paris and smuggled back into the Socialist Republic of Macedonia, where he was sentenced for “anti-Yugoslav activities.” He was adopted as a prisoner of conscience by Amnesty International. see link 





Staggering Statistics from the "Yugoslavist utopia" - 1984 - Amnesty International Report - Political Prisoners in YUGOSLAVIA

Figures - 64 per cent of the 1981 total of Yugoslav political prisoners were Ethnic Albanians; 62 per cent of the 1982 total of Yugoslav political prisoners were Ethnic Albanians.

Amnesty International noted also the increase in Yugoslav citizens being locked up for "non-nationalistic" reasons as in voicing disatisfaction with the Yugoslavist system. see link

Prominent and respected Serb dissident Mihajlo Mihajlov was also locked up for criticising the Soviet Union. Also Montenegrin Milovan Djilas (Gjilas) and a whole heap of Croats, including Dr Franjo Tudjman and Macedonian Dragan Bogdanovski (pictured) were political prisoners.

If anything, as European Union mandarin, Erwarn Fouere, has correctly pointed out, the Nikola Gruevski government has used “Milosevic tactics.” As far as I know, Slobodan Milosevic was a Serb nationalist, who at one time flirted with the idea of taking over Macedonia. He didn’t strike me as a “Macedonian nationalist.” see link. Gruevski and his crew have offered up a hodge-podge of “Macedonianism" with a heavy sprinkling of Belgrade and Sofia, rather than a truly independent culture drawing from the past. Instead we have hundreds of statues in Skopje, the Macedonian capital. 

To those who don’t understand the cleavages in Macedonian society: Macedonians outside the capital city regard those in the capital as being arrogant, aloof. Hence, ex Interior Minister Gordana Jankulovska’s snide remarks about ethnic Macedonians from Albania; and journalist Olivera Trajkovska ridiculing Opposition leader Zoran Zaev’s “provincial background."

You have pro government mouthpiece and media loudmouth Milenko Nedelkovski who says he is a “patriot” but flies to Belgrade to partake in conferences about a so called “neutral Balkans.” He talks in Serbian, interestingly enough so does Sinisa Jakov Marusic when discussing Macedonian statues. It’s a strange way to boast about being a patriot, don’t you think?




He then accuses others of treason - and in doing so he throws in Serbian words - the irony is hilarious:

“The time has come for a bullet to the head. There is no other way. We must rid ourselves of this scum”.

„Дојде време за метак у чело. Нема друг лек. Мора да се исчистиме од баграта“

Serb words found in the City of Skopje dialect.
У = u
Баграта= Bagra / bagrata.

Метак = metak.

Then we have Milenko’s arch nemesis, the aforementioned Borjan Jovanovski, who uses “salty language and inciting violence:

“abe ebete im majkata na site…gazete gi.” Citat: “koj gi eba be..."

Translation: "oh, go f--k all their mothers. Go stomp or trample on them. Who gives a f--k about them !"





During last year’s demonstrations agaisnt the Gruevski government - Borjan made the very interesting admission that [extremist nationalist] Serb tabloid journalists were inciting hatred between Macedonians and Albanians:



It’s interesting to note that he refers to these people as Poshtovane Kolega [respected colleagues] but in the English version he has deliberately dropped the respected. It’s strange to be associating with such people; to be dignifying them by calling them colleagues. You will notice that he is polite to these extremists but reserves vile swear words, misogynistic insults, for Macedonian critics. That sounds like cultural deference or submission?

Furthermore, Borjan Jovanovski, some months later, in a throw away line - whitewashes this extremism by saying that concerns about certain things being prohibited in Serbia are largely exaggerated. These are odd statements to make, highly contradictory, unless it is someone deliberately sitting on two chairs !


Again the use of Serb words such as U and vise, which are also found in the
 City of Skopje dialect as a sign of “coolness” and “sophistication."


- Sinisa Jakov Marusic’s strange interpretation of “ultra Macedonian nationalism?”

Bulgarian extremists, such politician Kressimir Karakachanov, have been able to operate freely on Macedonian soil by the Macedonian government.

Should Sinisa locate this species of “ultra Macedonian nationalist," I am hoping he will drop me a line.
Hmmmm, how odd?! There is a quote from Dositej Obradovic (an early 19th century oddball ex monk turned philosopher who believed in dictatorship) as Sinisa's Facebook profile photo (see link) and surprise, surprise a journalistic "enthusiasm" for finding people in SKOPJE, the Macedonian capital, to say nice things about Bosnian Serb Gavrlio Princip, the 19 year old who assassinated Austro-Hungarian Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife in Sarajevo, Bosnia, in 1914 and triggered the start of World War I.

Sending the wrong message? Sinisa’s strange selection of a Facebook profile photo ? A provocative quote in Serbian from an early 19th century Serbian ex-monk turned philosopher, Dositej Obradovic, who called for dictatorship. see link






Hmmmm.
I've taken a closer look at how controversial figure Todor Alexandrov, a pro Bulgarian Macedonian leader, has been bizarrely rehabilitated by certain sections in Macedonia... 

GAVRILO PRINCIP is a very very minor character in Macedonian history and talking about him in the context of the other ex Yugoslav republics is very odd, very Yugoslavist....very Belgradist by Sinisa and by BALKAN Insight. I don't know why the obsession in a collaborative report; it sounds like the old SFRY approach, with a cast of reporters:

Denis Dzidic, Marija Ristic, Milka Domanovic, Josip Ivanovic, Edona Peci, Sinisa Jakov Marusic BIRN Sarajevo, Belgrade, Zagreb, Pristina, Skopje.

The story was a profile of Princip in light of the centenary of the First World War (World War I or the Great War).

However, the hilarious thing was Slovenia had been left out of this neo-SFRY-ist examination of Princip. Princip is not a major Macedonian historical figure and would be of more importance to Slovenia which was then a part of Austro-Hungary. Moreover, Macedonians are not Serbs. It is insulting and chauvinistic for Macedonian reporters and intellectuals to be using a Serbian cultural hegemonistic (albeit a Yugoslavist one) approach.

In regards to World War I in Macedonia

I personally would hold both SERBIA and BULGARIA culpable for the events that transpired in Macedonia before and during and after World War I. They together with GREECE partitioned the country in 1912-13. So it's largely irrelevant who started World War I or not, from a Macedonian perspective as all three - SERBIA, GREECE, & BULGARIA were equally brutal in forced assimilation of Macedonians.

Getting back to the BALKAN Insight "collective" report from 2014: 

QUOTE: 

"Macedonian school textbooks describe the conflict as “the first world imperialist war” and focus on the division of Macedonian territory that followed. However, Macedonians blame neighbouring Bulgaria in particular for aggressive expansionism, not Serbia.

"Macedonian historian Novica Veljanovski was also keen to exonerate Serbia. “It has been proven that the Serbian state had no intention or plan to kill the Archduke Franz Ferdinand,” he explained. “Serbia cannot be blamed for the start of the war.”

"The Macedonian school textbook says Austria, Italy and Germany were the instigators, using the assassination by Princip’s “secret revolutionary organisation” as a pretext.

“Austria-Hungary used this event to accuse Serbia of organising the assassination, sending an ultimatum to Belgrade with almost unacceptable terms,” it says.

"Bulgaria is accused of conducting an “expansionist policy” and of joining the war to “take the whole of Macedonia”.

"Many people in the capital Skopje also did not blame Belgrade for WWI.

“Why Serbia? No. Everyone knows that the assassination that [Princip] carried out was only used as an excuse to start the war,” said one Skopje resident, Slavjan Radenski. “An entire country cannot be blamed for the actions of one man,” said another, Milanka Malinova."

Link: - Balkan Insight Report !

THE REAL GAVRILO PRINCIP? Used by BELGRADE?

Former US intelligence officer and historian Dr John Schindler says otherwise. He is an author on the subject  - his book is called Fall of the Double Eagle.

He paints Gavrilo Princip in a very negative light:

"They [Franz Ferdinand and his wife] were murdered by a misguided teenager who really was no more interesting or compelling than young spree killers are today. Had Gavrilo Princip been blessed with the Internet, one suspects that he would left us semi-coherent screeds explaining that this was all necessary to validate himself to a cruel world that somehow had failed to misunderstand his cosmic importance. Princip, a Serb, was a maladjusted yet fanatic nineteen year-old from a poor, one-horse town in western Bosnia, which had been a province of Austria-Hungary since 1878. He was radicalized into hatred of the Hapsburgs during high school, and he drifted into a circle of radical young Bosnians, mainly but not exclusively Serbs, devoted to overthrowing Austro-Hungarian rule in their country. Their ideology was an amalgam of anarchism and South Slav nationalism, mixed with adolescent angst and anger.

"This youthful yet ardent gang was under the influence, and eventually direction, of Serbian military intelligence, whose chief,  Colonel Dragutin Dimitrijević, colloquially known as Apis (The Bull), was a violent conspirator with impressive credentials even by high regional standards. He had played a key role in Belgrade’s 1903 palace coup, which saw the king and queen not merely murdered, but butchered with body parts cast onto the street below. Serbia thus earned a reputation as what would latterly be called a “rogue state,” and Apis was at the center of the secret cabal that actually ran things at the top of Serbia’s power structure. The members, mostly army officers, masked many of their activities through a front organization called the Black Hand. Dimitrijević ran extensive agent networks inside Hapsburg territory, mainly Serbs – there were more Serbs living in Austria-Hungary in 1914 than actually in Serbia – who were used for espionage, subversion, and sometimes terrorism. Under Apis, Belgrade was waging its own version of Special War in Bosnia, which Serbian nationalists hoped to liberate from Hapsburg rule."


Who is Novica Veljanovski? A Macedonian historian and ex-member of Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski's controversial Lustration Commission.



BELGRADE’S CULTURAL HOLD ON MACEDONIA - is still prevalent:

Stevce Jakimovski, an ally of Nikola Gruevski, the Mayor of Skopje suburb Karpos, came under criticism for spending public money in importing a Serbian turbo folk singer instead of using the money for other items.



OPPOSITION PARTY SDSM - flirted on a trial basis with controversial Belgrade Public Relations firm, Ruskin & Hunt, whose director Miljan Scekic, once spun for ultra Serb nationalist politician Maja Gojkovic, a staunch ally of extremist Vojislav Seselj. 
















Complaints that the Gruevski VMRO-DPMNE government neglecting local Macedonian artists in favour of Serbian turbo folk artists:



CULTURAL ROLE MODEL - Riblja Corba? - link


The Leader of the Opposition Zoran Zaev says he is pro-Western and pro-EU but he draws cultural inspiration from a guy, who is anti-Western, anti-EU and anti-NATO.
I refer to Bora Djordjevic of Serb hard rock group Riblja Corba. Djordjevic is a hardline nationalist politician who was sacked for threatening Serbian jourmalists.
It remains puzzling why Mr Zaev would be drawing from Djordjevic and for that matter refusing to criticise the Macedonian government being too close to Belgrade.
Citation:
Се гледа дека лидерот на опозицијата и дај боже нашиот иден Премиер Зоран Заев на интересен и несекојдневен начин се појави во јавноста. Имено на својот фејсбук профил ја сподели популарната балканска песна од Рибља Чорба. Погледај дом свој анџеле. Текстот го објави во оригинал на српски ама и на латиница, начин да ги исмее владините спинови дека пишувал писма на латиница. Тоа предизвика експлозија од подршка на народот, преку лајкувања и коментари. Емотивна припрема пред утрешното конечно крштевање со властта, со криминалните структури кои ја урнисаа Македонија.
Pogledaj dom svoj, andjele,
I skini paucinu s ociju,
Videces prizore potresne,
Videces nesrecne I bolesne,
Videces cemer, smrt I jad.
Pogledaj stado, andjele,
Sve sami bogalji I prosjaci,
Slepi tumaraju u gomili,
Svima su kicmu polomili,
Od tebe ocekuju spas.
Pogledaj bagru, andjele,
Njihova dusa je prokleta,
Svima su stavili amove,
Sebi sagradili hramove,
Ruke im ogrezle u krv.
Podigni mac svoj, andjele,
Seti se krstaskih ratova,
Seti se preklanih vratova,
Kad dodjes bogu na istinu,
Nek ti u dusi vlada mir.
Uslisi molitve, andjele,
Dabogda pocrkali dusmani,
Pa budi andjeo osvete,
Neka na svojoj kozi osete,
Sta znaci beda, strah I bol.
-----
Bora Djordjevic's antics:
"After the political changes in Serbia, he became the Deputy to Dragan Kojadinović, Minister of Culture in Serbian Government in 2004. However, Đorđević was forced to resign from the position the next year, after accusing the journalists of the television station B92 of treason and holding anti-Serbian politics."

HOWEVER, Bulgarian nationalism, unfortunately, is making inroads into Macedonia. So you now have a Belgrade-Sofia Cultural Axis. 



COMING SOON - TEAM UZUNOV WILL EXAMINE ALBANIAN NATIONALISM IN MACEDONIA